Which Europe/US-based tech event should you attend in 2015?

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For a startup looking to scale in the Arab world, to expand abroad, or to launch internationally, going to Europe or US-based events is a must. Arab participants at TechCrunch Disrupt London and the WebSummit in Dublin this year said that the benefits were plenty: meeting international entrepreneurs, learning about their industries, finding mentors and partners, and staying up to date on the latest trends and technology.

But not all tech events are created equal. It’s important to spend your money on the one that will best suit your needs. Here’s our guide to Europe and US-based tech events to think about attending in 2015.


Image: Redferns | Getty Images

SXSW – Austin, Texas: South by Southwest is the biggest startup event in the world, with more than 32,000 participants to the conference, and 65,000 participants to the Trade Show (participants who went to both are counted twice). It is known for hosting interesting sessions – 1,100 to be exact – on success stories, trends, marketing, finance, and much more. It’s also known as the startup summer camp: showing face at the parties is said to be more important than hanging out at the tradeshow or attending the conference. 

You should go if:

  • You’re looking to expand in the United States and need to learn about the market and find partners.
  • You want to meet all the big US players at once.
  • You’re looking for US funders.
  • You want to party.

French startup Azendoo, which we covered last year, met Evernote, Dropbox, Skype, Box, and Google there, resulting in partnerships and a huge surge in the US (80% of their users were in France before, now 50% are in the US)

Check out our 2014 coverage for more info.


Photo: CES

CES – Las Vegas, Nevada: The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has been around for almost 50 years. Last year, no fewer than 152,000 attendees from more than 150 countries attended the Las Vegas event to discover the newest trends and products in consumer electronics, including digital healthcare and wearable technology. The biggest consumer electronics brands dominate, but small companies are also getting their share of limelight.

You should go if:

  • You’re building an electronics product, have a demo that you are ready to show the world, and want to get honest feedback about.  
  • You need to meet investors, partners, distributors, manufacturing contacts, and media.

Last year, Lebanon’s Instabeat won the Wearable Technologies award. American-Moroccan startup Chui also attended CES last year, saying “we were able to gauge the early adopter/technologist market demand, received tremendous feedback…. were able to generate a small splash with the media, and establish a good list of contacts that wanted to help us with the market strategy for Chui.”


Photo: TechCrunch

TechCrunchDisrupt – Europe/US: The three-year-old TechCrunch event comprises three editions: one in New York, one in San Francisco, and one in Europe (so far they’ve been held in Berlin and London). Each event revolves around the Startup Battlefield competition, and the Startup Alley. It mostly targets investors, support organizations, and media.

You should go if:

  • You’re looking for investors and media coverage in the region where the event you’re interested in takes place.
  • You’ve been selected to participate in the Startup Battlefield competition.

The cofounder of Pollywords, Farid Haque, attended TechCrunch Disrupt Europe 2014 and warns they are not a lot of people from across broader Europe, and that “the startups that made the finals were really the ones that got all the attention.”

Learn more about his experience in our coverage of TechCrunch Disrupt Europe 2014.


Photo: The Web Summit

Web Summit – Dublin, Ireland: Only four years old, the Web Summit seems to be on the road to becoming the SXSW of Europe, closing in on 22,000 participants this year from all around the world, and made a huge effort on making its parties fun. Many people have complained though that the organization is still shaky, and the parties are too big and too crowded to become useful as networking events.

You should go if:

  • You want to meet the key players in Europe.
  • You want to talk to entrepreneurs from all around the world, and meet your international competition.
  • You’re looking to connect with investors, and get media coverage (but be warned, you’re not the only one, so you’ll need to work for it).

2013 edition Arab participants were disappointed there weren’t more Arab investors; instead there were too many European investors who were wary of investing in the MENA region. Let’s be clear: if you want to meet Arab investors, you’d better go to Arabnet; if you’re looking for European or US investors, you’re in luck if you go to Europe because they seem to be paying more and more attention to the MENA region.

Check out our 2014 coverage.


The Arab Startup Rising panel at LeWeb2014

Le Web – Paris, France: Le Web used to be the biggest startup event in Europe, but with the rise of the Web Summit, it’s slowly losing its edge. Still, this small event is a great conference to attend because of its high-quality talks, and its friendly, selective atmosphere. 

You should go if:

  • You want to know more about the upcoming digital trends.
  • You want to meet Francophone investors and key players.
  • You are looking for quality over quantity when it comes to networking in Europe.

For Instabeat’s Hind Hobeika, “You should go to LeWeb if you’re looking for European partners/exposure. There are very high level/international speakers but the crowd remains very European.”

Check out our 2013 wrap-up.


Photo: Claudio Farkasch/pioneers.io 

Pioneers Festival – Vienna, Austria: This event is similar to LeWeb on many levels: it focuses on trends, offers an array of top-notch talks and workshop, attracts class-A key players, and is small and well-organized enough to create that at home feeling. The difference is Pioneers Festival focuses on Central and Eastern Europe, but many players from the rest of Europe are also making the trip. Rarely have I seen such an agreeable event. The event, which takes place in one of the Empress Sissi’s palaces, feels cozy and modern, despite its timeless class. Also, the different cafés and buffet are open all day long, making it easy to randomly connect. The atmosphere is so good that people are still having drinks hours after the last talks. Note: the morning yoga class and the parties are also worth the trip to Austria.

You should go if:

  • You want to know more about the upcoming tech trends.
  • You want to meet the Central and Eastern Europe startup scene.
  • You want to build quality relationships with key European funders and support organizations.


Photo: Jussi Hellsten Photography 

Slush – Helsinki, Finland: SLUSH is one of the hottest startup+investor matchmaking events in Europe. Backed by the founders of Nordic success stories like Rovio, Supercell, and MySQL, it is put together by local entrepreneurs, professional music festival organizers, and students, hence the “electric vibe with the ‘concert’ feel” said Priscilla Elora from Ki.

You should go if:

  • You’re looking to hire.
  • You’re looking for investors.
  • You want to listen to on the multiple talks happening simultaneously on the five different stages.
  • You’re looking to party.
  • You’re in the gaming industry.

“The speakers are less separated from the crowd [than at WebSummit], so it's easier to get in touch with whoever you need to meet that was on stage,” said Dirtybit’s Aurora Klæboe Berg. “Everyone is in a chatty mood! I highly recommend it to all startups,” adds Elora.

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